Day 13 Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds- Part 2 #SOL17

Yesterday I shared the first part of my experience at the Long Island Language Arts Council and Nassau Reading Council's 2017 Conference, entitled, "Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds." 

Today I will share the rest of my experiences!

Empowering Students' Writing Through The Conversation of Response

Karen Buechner (left) and Nicolete James (right) are exceptional educators and friends through the Long Island Writing Project. The description of their workshop said, "Responding to student writing is inarguably the most demanding job of the ELA teacher. Empowering all our students as writers and giving them authority over their writing happens when we provide them with context-based commentary and opportunities to participate in a dialogue with their teacher and peers." The workshop opened with a question for us to consider: "What is feedback?" We shared our ideas with the person near us and then shared out as a group. Karen and Nicolette then made connections to Pam Allyn's keynote and the idea of putting a lot of love in our teaching. They presented the idea that we would respond to students first as readers, not as teachers. The teachers in the room voiced what it would mean to respond to student writing as a reader. 

Karen and Nicolette shared some ways they connect with students to discuss their writing. Conferences in and out of class were discussed as well as using Google comments. Nicolette shared a digital tool called Kaizena which allows you to speak your comments. 

A final activity was to look at a piece of student writing with a partner through the lens of being a reader. What comments would you make to the student? The writing was a visual analysis, which was not something I see much of as a third grade teacher! (The writing was a high school student's work) It was interesting to note that I still thought of mentor texts as a go-to resource for ways to help the writer improve. 

It was a pleasure to be part of this workshop, especially because I know these two educators are passionate teachers who believe in the power of writing. 

(Side note: If you aren't part of your local site of the National Writing Project, you should look into it! Writing Project teachers have a special something and are among the finest people I know.)

Afternoon Keynote Speaker: Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander lights up a room, fills it, stops you and catches your attention right away. He is a gifted story teller and understands kids. Kwame's poetry is lyrical and meaningful. He talked about words having the power to change lives. It's hard to describe a Kwame Alexander keynote- I've had the pleasure of hearing two of them and you just have to be in the room! So I'll say, next time you have the opportunity to hear Kwame, don't walk, there! 

I always try to purchase a book when I'm at a conference. Kwame Alexander's anthology of poems, Out of Wonder, was my beautiful buy this year. (Sorry, New York Ready test prep book- you didn't stand a chance!) In the Preface, Kwame writes that the title of the book comes from a quote by Lucille Clifton: "Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing." The book includes 20 of Kwame's favorite poets and is illustrated by Ekua Holms in the most gorgeous, bold colors. I cannot wait to read this whole book and share it with my students. 

Believe it or not, tomorrow I am off to another conference! I will be in the Poster session at the Suffolk Asset Conference, which has a focus on technology in education. I am so eager to share about my class hub and learn from the forward-thinking, innovative educators who will be presenting. I am grateful to my district, Farmingdale, for believing in the power of educators continuously learning and encouraging teachers to attend conferences. 


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